Current wave-equation migration velocity analysis schemes suffer from problems such as severe nonlinearity (which causes the issue of cycle skipping) and imprecise objective functions (which can accrue velocity errors by honoring residuals caused by model complexity and incomplete acquisition). To provide an improvement, we developed an alternative method to perform wave-equation migration velocity analysis by maximizing the flatness of the angle-domain common image gathers. We replaced the ray-based tomographic operator with the wave-equation-based one, although keeping the conventional moveout-based tomography work flow. Instead of maximizing the image-stack-power objective function directly with respect to the slowness, we linked the objective function to the slowness indirectly through an intermediate moveout parameter. By focusing on the common image gather kinematics, this approach greatly reduced the risk of cycle skipping in the absence of low-frequency data, and it produced high-quality gradients. In addition, the proposed method did not require explicit picking of the moveout parameters. Our numerical examples demonstrated the great potential of this method: in the first example, in which there is a Gaussian-shaped slowness anomaly, our method produced a well-behaved gradient; in the second example, in which there is a horizontally gradual increase of slowness, the result verified that our method is robust against cycle skipping; in the third example, the result showed that our method works well with reflectors of variable dips. Finally, our test on the Marmousi models concluded that the proposed method converges to a high-quality model that uniformly flattens the angle-domain common-image gathers.

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